Preaching in the Local Church
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2
The New Testament here commands that the Word be preached in the environment of the community of faith, namely, the Local Church. The ‘Ekklesia’ or ‘gathering’ of believers is to be a community that revolves around the teachings, person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church gathers out of obedience to the Lord, primarily to remember Him in worship. As worship is the purpose for the Church gathering, preaching can be seen as a part of corporate worship. Preaching is not to be merely thought of as an activity, where one speaks and the many listen. Rather, the preacher, and the hearers ought to be worshiping at the very point of what is being said. As John Piper puts it, “Preaching is worshiping over the Word of God – the text of Scripture – with explanation and exultation” (The Supremacy of Christ in Preaching, Piper, 9). Taking a general definition of the word ‘worship’ to be ‘ascribing worth to’ this would mean that the activity of preaching is basically ascribing worth to God through the text of Scripture.
Worship can only occur when two things happen. Firstly, God must make some revelation of Himself to a person. Secondly, that person, in response must initiate a genuine act (whether internal, such as the thoughts of the heart, or external, such as bowing the knee) of ascribing worth to God. Jonathan Edwards clarifies this by saying that, “God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By appearing to…their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”
Because preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word, which is a revelation of God Himself, worship ought to be the result, both in the immediate heart-response and the ongoing changes in the life of the hearer. If, after learning something of God in His nature, one does not respond in worship the hearer has then become a mere intellectual student of God, and missed God’s purpose for Him in receiving the Word. Learning something of interest or intellectual stimulation is never the purpose of Biblical preaching. The Bible may be used in preaching that leaves the hearer with more information than he had previously, but the Bible may also be used to teach a literature class. Neither of these uses constitutes Biblical preaching. An integration of the mind and heart is essential for the Word to take root and bear fruit in the life of the listener. The preacher must take care to draw the mind into the examination of a text, as well as the heart, especially in calling for a response to the text. Often a call for response is unnecessary when the text plainly, often painfully, makes it clear that a response is expected. There may be no need to ask for a response when the text powerfully speaks for itself, as it is expounded.
The word ‘preach’ used in 2 Timothy 4:2 is the Greek word ‘keruxon’ – literally to ‘herald’, ‘announce’ or ‘proclaim.’ This is not the same as the word for ‘teach’ or ‘explain.’ Piper goes on to say,
“I call this heralding exultation. Preaching is a public exultation over the truth that it brings. It is not disinterested or cool or neutral. It is not mere explanation. It is manifestly and contagiously passionate about what it says… The reason that preaching is so essential to the corporate worship of the church is that it is uniquely suited to feed both understanding and feeling. It is uniquely suited to waken seeing God and savoring God. God has ordained that the Word of God come in a form that teaches the mind and reaches the heart.”